August 1, 2014

Anticipation vs responsiveness

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individuals and organizations still struggle with being proactive and preventing problems. My explanation comes by way of a saying I once wrote on a whiteboard in a co-worker’s cubicle when the powers-that-be in that organization were touting the virtues of responsiveness:

Responsiveness is required only by those who have failed to anticipate.

It’s easy to instruct others to be proactive, mostly because the virtues of being proactive are so intuitive. If you have a keen enough understanding of your environment, however, it becomes possible to predict what might happen and prevent the problem for arising. That, of course, necessitates that you actually have an understanding of your environment. [Read more]

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Training and Education – What is the correct value for you?

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As Continuous Improvement practitioners, it is natural (even a passion) to always seek ways to improve ourselves and the value we drive to our colleagues and the companies for which we work. During our quest for this personal and professional development, sometimes we know precisely which areas we wish to improve our skillsets and where we need to concentrate our efforts, and sometimes we seek to satisfy a curiosity of some subject matter.

Once we decide on what we wish to learn, we need to decide on what level of knowledge and competency we wish to possess at the conclusion of our being taught and, most importantly, we need to ensure that the method we select for conveying of that knowledge and competency to us will yield those expected results. Therefore, during this evaluation process, we must always remember the following corollary; the level of effort required is directly proportional to the depth of the knowledge and competency acquired.

We must also evaluate the “Comparative Value” of the efforts and results, with Comparative Value being defined as; “the investment requirements associated with gaining the knowledge versus the benefit gained to oneself and one’s company.” [Read more]

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A powerful habit: commit to being a better person

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You are flawed.

Accept it.

I don’t care what age you are, or gender, or what you’ve accomplished in your lifetime (or not) – you are flawed. There are things about you people don’t like, even if you’re unable to admit that that is true (which is a flaw) or you don’t see yourself the way those people see you (another flaw).
Here’s the truth: you’ve got problems and things you really need to work on, personally and professionally. We all know that’s true, so here the real question: What are you doing about it? [Read more]

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Project problems can’t be solved with an operational focus

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Very often, projects are assessed by using metrics that are not about identifying unique & temproary activities. Rather, persistent, on-going measures such as average weekly costs or hours worked or material dollars spent are used to determine if a project is running as it should.

Unfortunately, these sort of measurements are more attuned to understanding operations because they establish linear costs over time. Project have peaks and valleys, spikes and low points, periods of tremendous activity and periods when they have very little at all.
[Read more]

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Why your PMP prep doesn’t feel like reality (and why it shouldn’t)

A Break in Reality
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I feel lucky to have the benefit of my time spent trying to understand the Lean paradigm because it is offering so much insight into what the PMI framework is trying to do. It is establishing a standard. It is offering a methodology for managing projects against which all other management styles, and outcomes, can be measured. In a way, it depicts the ideal – if all projects, everywhere, operated in the way the PMI describes, then all projects would deliver on time, within budget, and with inputs from all stakeholders at every level of the organization – including customers.

Is that reality? No. Of course not. [Read more]

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What to do when you don’t know the way to go

plot a course for home
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My 3-year-old is following in his 7-year-old brother’s footsteps and taking an intense interest in Nickelodeon’s Dora the Explorer. After a couple years of not having to listen to the theme song ad nauseum, we’re back into the thick of things.

For those who are not familiar with the show, Dora frequently goes on adventures and isn’t certain which way to go. In those situation, she calls upon her trusty map, which shows her the way.

If only we were all so well prepared. [Read more]

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Weekend yard work shows: If the plan is solid, stick to it

white picket fence
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Whether at home or at work, we find ourselves with plans that are obsolete the moment they are created. We abandon them when something we hadn’t accounted for pops up, which we somehow believe means the plan is invalid. Odds are, it is not. It might need to adjust a bit to establish flow, but it shouldn’t be thrown out entirely. Also, unless the unexpected thing is a catastrophic failure for your entire plan – ignore it. If it’s important, it will become a critical interruption soon enough. If it is not important, it will resolve itself or just go away entirely.

Simple rules for productivity apply everywhere. If you are working at home or working hard for someone else – the rules don’t change. When you run to the store for a wrench – go in, get the wrench, and leave. Don’t browse the power tools, pick up a pack of widgets because they are on sale, wonder what it would cost to replace the whatever – just take care of whatever it is that helps you accomplish your plan. The rest is just noise, and it can get deafening. [Read more]

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Wiggle room – The no-panic guide to staff development

tight spot
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If you do know what can hurt and what can’t, then you know you can give your people interesting projects that will help to benefit the business, but not destroy it as they struggle.

It’s as simple as having extra capacity on a bottle neck or schedule slack in your project – you have wiggle room…always. [Read more]

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Work on Fewer Projects and Get More Done

Bottle Neck
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Good Intent Unintentionally Sabotaged – Have you observed this in your organization? Each year the Leadership Team goes through a planning process. With good intention, they launch a number of initiatives to achieve stretch goals. Work begins with great enthusiasm but soon becomes mired down. Reality hits, priorities are diluted and the rhythm of bureaucracy sets in.

“Idea darlings” are aggressively pursued by the Leadership Team and move to the front of the queue. The rest of the projects languish … or worse. Sure, as time permits they’re continually worked on. Yet they’re not predictably getting done. And perhaps worse, execution effectiveness drops off as expected organizational learning is lost and then repeatedly must be regained.

It is not uncommon for organizations to underperform on project intent. Many times there are simply too many things being worked on at once, consuming attention and resources, and giving rise to increasing conflicts and bottlenecks. Perhaps some of these situations sound familiar to you? [Read more]

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Metrics are Scary and Should be Avoided at All Costs (Not)

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Metrics are such an important element of continuous improvement. Wait…Metrics might be the most important element of continuous improvement. Why? Because continuous improvement by definition is the measurement of improvement — and if you aren’t measuring, how will the organization know how far it has come or where it needs to go?

Most organizations struggle mightily with the topic of metrics and sometimes it’s surprising just how much. I think it happens for a number of reasons. [Read more]

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